Thursday, June 30, 2011

Customer Service in 'Real Time'

1. Give a damn. And mean it

The foundation of any culture of listening – and in turn action – is simply caring. Take great interest in what your customers are saying, and demonstrate that interest publicly. Actively soliciting feedback from your customers in your store and on the web carries the sense that you are constantly striving to improve. Showcasing the ways that you make changes based on the feedback cements that idea. If you care about your customers, your customers are going to care about you.

2. Respond in real time

Your customers are INFINITELY connected. At any given point I can email, call, text, Facebook, Tweet or send up a good ol’ fashioned flare to someone that I’m trying to get in touch with. Why would paying customers not expect that same connectivity out of the businesses that they interact with? Your response time as a business is a direct indicator of how much you value your customer feedback. With each passing second, a wall is building up between you and your customer base that has expressed a certain level of dissatisfaction.

Further, while the ability of your customers to diffuse negative information about you increases, so does your risk for reputation hell. Each and every customer that you have now carries an audience with them. You can’t afford to have a single negative experience turn into the loss of hundreds of customers simply because you weren’t equipped to deal with customer feedback in a timely fashion.

3. Offer to make it better – yes, even if it’s not your fault

Anytime you receive negative feedback, you have the ability to showcase your businesses’ ability to go above and beyond to satisfy customers. In many of these situations the customer doesn’t necessarily deserve it, but that’s not the point. You have to account for the larger picture. Going above and beyond for one customer can touch far more potential customers and drastically improve your brand’s perception in ways that no other marketing tactic can. It’s not about that single customer at that specific point in time; it’s about using that situation to create a customer-oriented stigma for your brand. In a sense, these are investment opportunities with the potential for huge return.

4. Follow-up (The extra mile)

After you’ve immediately addressed and remedied the situation with your customers, follow-up. Ensure that you’ve rectified it not only your mind, but theirs, and let them know how much you’d like their business in the future. This gesture shows your customers just how committed you are to their long-term business. It also demonstrates the extraordinary effort you made to keep a customer happy – an action that should win back multiple customers.

There certainly is no magic pill that makes negative feedback sting any less, but by acknowledging it for what it really is, and creating a culture that embraces all types of feedback, you can dramatically curtail the instances of negative feedback and ensure that you’re turning each customer into a living, breathing billboard for your brand.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Silo Demolition..Open the Windows and Let the Light In!

When my passion for marketing first began, it didn’t occur to me that someday I would have to play construction worker and bulldoze silos. The kind of silos I am speaking of typically occur in larger organizations where functional departments can become impenetrable. Even within larger marketing and sales groups, there can be a divide; marketing and sales are not always BFF's.

I was reminded of how dysfunctional marketing departments can become after reading a recent Quirk’s article by Michael Carlon, Rethinking the Role of Shopper Insights. His article was on the changing the culture of shopper insights and spoke to the silos which can prevent strategic and tactical information from reaching the right hands at the right time.

This is where we need to step up and actively seek out internal constituents who can benefit from our brand of primary research. We are marketers; and research collectors. Our product in part is data and insights that come from the surveys, focus groups and transactional analyses we conduct. As stewards of strategic information, we cannot sit in an ivory tower, we must get into the trenches.

Creating a regularly updated summary of research findings and distributing those learning's to senior management as well as those in day to day contact with the customer is one way we can work around the silos departments create.

Another option is to connect with working groups and provide presentations customized for their specific needs. It takes only little additional time to re-analyze the data through the filter of the group you are presenting to.

So fellow marketers, be not afraid to go forth and spread the feedback you have collected, you have developed. You may just find that it creates greater demand for your services and increases your personal customer satisfaction rating.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Five Tips for Using Social Media to 'Check in' to the White House

Study Finds Online Engagement Will Be Key to 2012

Kissing babies is still a valuable trick of the political trade, but it's not enough for the digital world. The modern politician will capture the baby-kissing on video and quickly post it on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube while making sure constituents "check in" to Foursquare. According to a recent Iowa field study of politically themed advertising conducted by SocialVibe, the digital road to the White House is now dependent on social-media engagement.

"Social-media engagement will decide election 2012," Jay Samit, CEO of SocialVibe, a digital advertising technology company, said in an email. "Voters are hungry for sharable content that resonates with their values, priorities and interests."

It's to be expected that a social agency will sing the praises of social media. And reality dictates that old-fashioned TV advertising is, once again, going to account for the overwhelming bulk of political advertising this election cycle as politicians seek to target undecided and swing voters.

But online and social will be crucial to any successful campaign -- especially in terms of fundraising and getting out the base. And experts parsing the results of the study during a conference call today offered up five solid tips for campaigns:

1. Use Facebook and campaign websites to engage supporters. According to Karen Jagoda, executive director of the E-Voter Institute, 81% of those 18 and older expect candidates to have a website. Also, with Facebook user numbers at roughly 150 million in the U.S. alone, many candidates will look to utilize this social media tool.

In the last election Google was the largest player -- the Obama campaign directed 45% of its online campaign dollars to the search site. However, in this upcoming election Facebook is being forecasted at being equally important to Google, according to Kate Kaye, author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media."

2. Make your social presence a conversation. Thanks to social networking, it has become easier to target supporters with specificity. This is because, according to SocialVibe, "campaigns can target by political party, a cross-section of information imbedded into a profile (ranging from a user's 'likes' to the topics she discusses on her wall) and by age, gender and location." Also, with the use of social networking a particular message can be passed along multiple times to reach a wide range of people. According to SocialVibe, "94% of voting-age users engaged by a political message in social media watched the entire message, and nearly 40% went on to share it with their friends."

3. Go mobile. Jon Gibs, a Nielsen VP, said that there are 230 million cellphone users in the U.S., of which 30 million watch video on their mobile phones. Further, political campaigns are turning to quick-response codes that allow users to check in to a particular event using Facebook or Foursquare. According to SocialVibe, "The Mitt Romney campaign recently took advantage of this feature by creating a Foursquare badge for participating in a one-day fundraiser in Las Vegas."

4. Make emails social. Although email is no longer the principle way to get a message out to the public, it is a still an important tool. "While younger voters may be disinclined to even open emails, their parents and grandparents still rely on email for information and connection," according to SocialVibe.

5. Build allegiance through engagement advertising. This form of advertisement relies on the people themselves to maintain and further the success of the advertising. People choose to engage a particular advertisement, receive information about the subject and gain credit by playing a social online game, premium content or other goods they find value in.

"Campaigns that embrace the latest trends in commercial brand advertising will see the same kind of results that are driving more and more advertising dollars both online and to mobile devices," said Mr. Samit.

Source: Ad Age